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The Importance Of The Oleochemical Industry

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2718 words Published: 8th May 2017

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Oleochemicals which is the chemical product that extract from plant or animal oil. The formation of oleochemical are from fatty acids, fatty alcohol, methyl esters and glycerine. In Malaysia, oleochemical started from early 1980’s. The Malaysian Oleochemical Manufactures Group (MOMG) was established in January 1984 when the industry attracted more producer. MOMG uses the renewable natural raw material such as palm oil, coconut oil and palm kernel oil which are environment friendly.

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Due to the global warming and depleting of fossil fuel, biodiesel will be the next great potential as a cost-effective feedback for fossil fuel. Palm oil or other vegetable oil can be used to create biodiesel for internal combustion engines. After mixed with petro diesel, biodiesel can use in any diesel engine. Normally vehicle manufacture limit their recommendation to 15% biodiesel blended with petro diesel. In Europe, biodiesel is most common. R&D have research that biodiesel is more clean energy than fossil fuel, it release less carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide after combustion. Not only that, biodiesel is more economical as biodiesel can be use directly without changing or modified the vehicle engine.

The importance and advantages of Oleochemical Industry (Biodiesel) in our Society

The oleochemical industry that producing biodiesel have unpredictable profit potential since the fossil fuel sources are depleting over the years and this will cause the usage of biodiesel increases. Biodiesel is miscible with petroleum based diesel and this provides several advantages. For example, biodiesel can be obtained from a renewable and widespread availability of feedstock. Moreover, biodiesel has the same energy level for per gallon like petroleum-based diesel

The biodiesel is produced from plants and other organic raw materials and the processes of producing biodiesel are harmless to the earth compared to drilling for oil which caused huge damages to the earth. Since we able to produce biodiesel and being used in domestic, there are no international complications will be involved. This will help strengthen our national security. Besides that, it can prevent the global situation to affect the price of biodiesel.

The main reason of oleochemical industry can be so successful is because of the alternative biofuel such as biodiesel is a carbon neutral one which means it doesn’t not emit any carbon gases in the form of carbon dioxide. As we know carbon dioxide is the main contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions. Besides that, biodiesel is biodegradable and less toxic than fossil fuel. Due to the lubricating effect by the biodiesel, the diesel engine’s lifetime is last longer and it is more efficiency. Therefore, biodiesel becomes one of the most important alternative fuel for combustion in diesel engines.

The Supply & Demand of Biodiesel

Due to the declining of fossil fuels around the world, various governments all over the world have passed policies to help in the production and phasing-in of bio-fuels to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel. For example, the United States of America had passed a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2010 for the production of 650 million gallons of biodiesel in 2010, while in Brazil, all gasoline requires around 20-25% of ethanol blended into them and since Jan. 1 2010, Brazil had begun a B-5 mandate which requires the phasing in of 5% biodiesel into fossil fuels.

In addition, due to the EU’s (European Union) determined policies, biofuel consumption is set to increase sharply. Previously, the EU had set a goal for all their member nations to achieve a minimum target of 5.75% biofuel production by the year 2010, which was estimated to be around 14 million tonnes, and subsequently increase the amount to 10% biofuel production by the year 2020.

South East Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines have also set a B2.5 mandate which requires the phasing in of 2.5% biodiesel into fossil fuel diesels in their internal market. Malaysia has also implemented a B5 mandate which requires all diesel fuels sold in the country to phase-in 5% of biodiesel. Therefore, with many countries supporting the concept of producing biofuels and the increasing worldwide demand, it shows that investing into the field of the production of biodiesel would be very profitable in the long run.

Costs of producing biodiesel are dependent on the feedstock being used, the biodiesel plant design and size, and the way the plant is being operated. Basically, soybean oil and palm oil are the most commonly used feedstock being used in the oleo chemical industry due to their widespread availability and lowest priced for most of the time. Although algae are one of the feedstock which can have a high yield of biodiesel, palm oil is still preferred over algae due the high capital of algae.

Besides that, countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, which in 2012 had recorded roughly 18,500,000 metric tons of palm oil produced, will prove to be worthwhile countries to invest in for the production of biodiesel due to the fact that there are ample materials to produce biodiesel. Moreover, with the lack of suppliers producing biodiesel in the region (South East Asia), to invest in this field in the region would prove to be worth the effort.

Procesess for synthesis of biodiesel from palm

There are two main process for synthesis of biodiesel from palm¼š

Palm Oil Extraction from palm

Mechanical Extraction

Solvent Extraction

Traditional Method Of Palm Kernel Extraction

There are 8 main processes for the palm oil extraction, those are bunch reception, and weighing, bunch quartering, bunch sterilization, bunch threshing/ stripping, oil palm fruit digestion, palm oil pressing, palm oil clarification, palm oil drying and palm oil storage (Figure 6.1). The extraction of palm oil can be done by three methods: a.) Mechanical Extraction, b.) Solvent extraction and c.) Traditional method of palm kernel extraction.

2. Trans-esterification

Trans-esterification also known as alcoholysis. It is a chemical process that decrease the viscosity of palm oil and produce biodiesel by displace alcohol from an ester using another alcohol. This chemical process contains three subsequent reversible reactions: i.) Reaction between triglycerides of palm oil and alcohol to produce diglycerides and ester, ii.) Reaction between diglycerides and alcohol to produce monoglycerides and ester, iii.) Reaction between monoglycerides and alcohol to produce glycerol and ester (general equation in Figure 6.2). Transesterification can either be performed by the present of catalyst (catalytic process) or without the present of catalyst (non-catalytic process) (Figure 6.3).

During the synthesis of biodiesel, there are some precaution steps need to be taken to ensure the whole process can be done in safe condition. One of the precaution step is always make sure that the tanks used in processing biodiesel are in good condition. Besides that, make sure that all the electrical powered are not over heated, over-pressurized and improperly installed. Use an explosion proof motor to avoid from leaving the motor and engage the professionals to install and maintain the pump.

The Impact on the Environment

The process of deriving oleochemical can be divided into Fat Splitting, Distillation, Fractionation by Crystallization, Fractionation by Distillation, Hydrogenation and Ion Exchange. All the stated process might have some impacts on the environment, such as:

A power plant will be needed to supply a large amount of energy to the oleochemical industry. In order to install a power plant in the factory, space and fuel are essential. However, fossil fuel is not environment friendly because it will produce toxic gases such as CO and SO3, which could cause air pollution. Besides, greenhouse gases such as CO2, O3, water vapors, and CH4, released from the power plant, further contribute to greenhouse effects.

Raw materials are limited. Human may suffer from food deficiency due to excessive usage of animals and plants fats as raw material for oleochemical industry. ‘Animal fats, being a side stream from the meat production, have a limited availability’, said European Oleochemicals & Allied Products Group. ‘Animal fats cover more than 50 % of the raw material requirements in the European Oleochemical Industry’.

The processes of deriving oleochemicals such as (splitting, refining, neutralization and distillation) will generate heat energy. Since water has a very high specific heat capacity, it will be used in cooling system. In the cooling system, heat energy will be transfer to the water, which increases the temperature of water. If we discard the hot water into river, the temperature will later disrupt the temperature of the river water. Even though it could be a very slight change of temperature, but it may cause death to the aquatic lives due to inadequate temperature which affects the activity of enzymes.

There is no proof that neither raw materials nor products are safe to human, animals and plants even though it’s derived from plants or animals sources. Therefore, all the raw materials and products must be handled with care by relative field experts. ‘The handling, storage, and transportation of these materials should to be managed properly to avoid or minimize the potential for environmental impacts’ .

Pollutant, toxic and greenhouse gases will cause pollution and greenhouse effect if we release it directly into atmosphere. Existence of So3 and other toxic gases in atmosphere can cause respiratory problems on humans and animals.

If the waste products of fat splitting process such as lipids, acids and alkali were discarded to ground, it will cause soil pollution. Plants will be unable to grow and this further destroys the habitat of the animals.

When the factory is operating, machines and operating systems will generate noise and disturb nearby residence. A suitable and strategy location which located far away from town and residence area can be used to set the factory.

A catalyst such as Pt or Ni may be required to speed up the rate of reaction. These catalysts are expensive and need to be recycled so that we can reduce the costs and also save the environment.

The products might consist of new and unknown chemicals. To reveal the toxicity or other side effects, animal testing or animal trial can be conducted. This is an inhumane practice, which may affect the ecosystem if the toxic is spread among the flora and fauna. The worst uncontrollable case is that the chemicals cause cancer or mutation inside the animal body and spread among each other. Therefore, the practice of animal testing must be carried out in a small scale, and the number of animal used for testing should be as least as possible. Besides, the animals must be quarantined and separated from the others, as this could further minimize biological pollution.

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Future Potential of the Oleochemical Industry

Oleochemical industry is one of the fastest growth industry for biofuels. In the next few years, products produced by oleochemical industry are expected to replace those from petrochemicals. Most of the oleochemical industry are based on palm and palm kernel oils, so other new raw material sources are hoped to be found out to replace them, which are cheaper and easy to be obtained.

To protect the mother earth, costs of production should not be the first consideration while the environmental impact of a chemical to the user and environment is anticipated to be more important. Environmental issues such as biodegradation, non-toxicity and life cycle analysis are the main consideration that will be used in the future to determine whether a chemical should be commercially produced or not.

Biotechnology aslo as known as biotransformation process is used to produce basic oleochemicals and intermediate products that based on chemical processes. This will be the future technology and will be used to produce functionality oleochemicals.


The world is facing the depleting of fossil fuels, so the demand of oleochmical products will continue exceed the supply. Oleochemical plays a very important role in providing an alternative to replace the fossil fuels because the products of oleochemical are environmental friendly. However, mass exploits of this industry will still harm the environment to a certain extent. Hence, precaution measures must be taken and careful deliberation over the issues that will happen before it creates a problem to our society.


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2) Siti Fatimah Arifin, University Malaysia Pahang, Faculty Of Chemical And Natural Resources Engineering, Production Of Biodiesel From Waste Cooking Oil And RBD Palm Oil Using Batch Transesterification Process. Available from: [May 2009]

3) Rhonda Day, eHow, Safety and Hazard Precautions In Biodiesel Production. Available from:

4) FAO Corporate Document Repository, Palm Oil Processing. Available from:

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6) Centre for Transportation Analysis, Global Supply and Demand of Biofuels, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Available from: [January 2011]

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9)ASEAN Oleochemical Manufacturers Group, Country Section Malaysia. Available from:

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12) Wolfgang Rupilius and Salmiah Ahmad, The Changing World of Oleochemicals. Available from:

13) International Finance Corporation, IFC, 2007, Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines for Oleochemicals Manufacturing [Online]. Available from:

14) Trudy, T., 2009, Synthetic Ingredients: The debate over synthetics [Online] Available at

15) European Oleochemicals & Allied Products Group, APAG 2006, Challenges and potential of biomass & biofuels for the European Oleochemical industry [Online]. Available at:

16) Ahmad, Mohd Jaaffar, and Tang Thin Su, 2005 “Supply and demand of biodiesel in the European Union (EU).” Palm Oil Dev 42 (2005): 8-14.


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